Disney’s awakening crusade is costing it dearly

Life at the Walt Disney Company is no longer the fairy tale it used to be. In recent years, the entertainment megacorporation had enjoyed something of a renaissance, with its streaming service Disney+ the newest jewel in the empire’s crown. But Disney shares are down 40 percent this year, and last week’s quarterly report is grim reading. Disney’s operating expenses and losses are skyrocketing. Even the hugely popular Disney+, which continues to gain subscribers, had an operating loss of $1.47 billion, more than double its loss last year. An internal note last week announced job cuts and hiring freeze.

It is perhaps no coincidence that Disney’s troubles come in a year when the company has been distracted by politics. In fact, it seems to have gone into overdrive promoting awakening causes, both on screen and off.

Most infamously, in March, Disney got into a bitter political battle with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis over his Parents’ Rights in Education Act. The law, now enacted, prohibits ‘classroom instruction’ on topics of ‘sexual orientation or gender identity’ for Florida schoolchildren under the age of 10. Although the law has overwhelming support from parents across the political spectrum, it sparked fury in media circles. Critics were quick to call it the “Don’t Say Gay” law, arguing that it “marginalizes LGBTQ+ people‘.

Disney he was very happy to join the chorus of denunciations. The act ‘should never have happened’, he said Disney in a sentence. “Our goal as a company is to have this law struck down by the legislature or struck down in the courts.” Disney also pledged to donate $5 million to organizations that oppose the law. But DeSantis hit back. He revoked a special tax status that Disney’s Florida theme parks had been enjoyed since 1967.

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Disney’s growing reputation for championing awakening causes is costing it more than just its tax breaks. Now it’s clearly damaging her relationship with the audience. As recently as March 2021, Disney’s public approval rating was 77 percent. But a September poll finds that Disney’s approval has now fallen to just 51 percent among all Americans. And it has fallen into negative territory among Republicans. as pollster Chris Wilson notes, “It is highly unusual for a family entertainment company to find itself out of the goodwill of so many Americans.”

A leaked internal video from earlier this year shows that Disney’s wake shift is a very important part of a top down schedule. Disney corporate chairwoman Karey Burke, the proud mother of “one transgender child and one pansexual child,” has pushed for Disney to include “many, many, many LGBTQIA characters” in her stories. She has even called for 50 percent of Disney characters to be ‘LGBTQIA’ or racial minorities.

Though Disney may not have reached Burke’s quota yet, the emphasis on LGBT and racial themes is now clear in the result. For example, one of Disney’s big fails this year was Light-year, a Toy Story spin-off that explores the origins of astronaut Buzz Lightyear. Despite a huge budget of $200 million, Light-year it far underperformed the company, recovering only $226 million.

One likely reason for the failure is that most of the buzz and marketing around the film focused on its ‘strange representation‘. The movie’s lesbian kiss scene is a small part of the story, but it became an obsessive focus for the media. What a New York Post writer notes, moviegoers likely stayed away not because they were offended by a gay kiss, but because they ‘thought Light-year it was a “message” movie. And while ‘message movies’ seem to delight awake critics, they tend to be a big turn-off for moviegoers who want to be entertained rather than lectured.

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Sequels, spin-offs and remakes they are usually a safe financial bet for movie studios. But this tried and tested formula tends to fail whenever politics is injected into well-loved franchises. Going through several recent reboots, Disney seems to be focusing more on a diverse cast than making good movies. This year’s live-action remake of pinocchio was praised by critics for with a black fairy godmotherY not much more. All the discussion in the media about next year The little Mermaid so far it has focused on the fact that Ariel will be black. The public (save for a handful of grotesque Twitter trolls) have no objection to these casting options. But when all the hype in the lead up to a new release is focused on such superficial details, we shouldn’t be so surprised if these movies flop.

At every turn, Disney’s wake-up stance is turning audiences off. Worn-out messages of social justice are no substitute for imaginative and compelling storytelling. And big corporations should know better than to stick their noses in politics.

Laurie Wastell is an intern at spiked.

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